When a Pittsburg, KS, building owner wanted to improve the façade of his deteriorating building with EIFS, the renovations pitted city officials against the State Historic Preservation Office.
|The proposed EIFS renovations were within 500 feet of the Hotel Stilwell, a historic. four-story, red-brick building in downtown Pittsburg.|
The Preservation Office ruled that the External Insulation Finishing System would “encroach upon, damage or destroy” the environs of a nearby historic landmark. The city disagreed, overturning the preservationists’ decision at a public hearing on Aug. 28.
The aging downtown building was within 500 feet of the Hotel Stilwell, a structure listed on the State and Federal Historic Registers. Upgrades were therefore subject to review by a State Historic Preservation Officer.
Eventually, the renovations were allowed to continue, but not without some heated discord from both parties.
Old vs. New
The dust-up began several months ago, when building owner Joe Kim hired Tri-State Building, of Pittsburg, to renovate and remodel the former Hunan House Restaurant into a new takeout eatery, Bamboo Restaurant.
The project included upgrading the “extremely poor existing condition” of the building’s exterior with brick, EIFS and glass, according to the contractor. The “old-style” canopy would also be upgraded during the project.
Tri-State Building had also completed similar exterior upgrades to other commercial buildings in the downtown area.
“We feel that the design will enhance the downtown and not vary from the design [approved for other buildings] such as Ryan’s Cleaners and Sears,” said Danny J. Arck, vice president of Tri-State Building.
The city agreed and issued a $2,500 façade grant for the alterations.
Shortly thereafter, however, State Historic Preservation Officer Stanley Weaver issued an assessment, ruling that the EIFS alteration would destroy the building’s “character-defining features.”
|Tri-State Building, the general contractor hired for the project, said the renovations of Kim’s building would look much like Ryan’s Cleaners, also in downtown Pittsburg.|
The project was put on hold until the city could review the preservation office decision, in accordance with state law.
The SHPO’s Standard for Evaluating the Effects of Projects on Environs was used to examine the building upgrades proposed by Kim and his general contractor.
“New additions, exterior alterations, infill construction, or related new construction should not destroy character-defining features or spatial relationships that characterize the environs of a property,” Weaver’s assessment said.
“The new work shall be compatible with the historic materials, character-defining features, size, scale and proportion, and massing of the environs.
“While it is positive that the building will receive a storefront that is compatible within the environs, covering the rest of the facade with EIFS is an exterior alteration that will destroy the character-defining features of this building. It will no longer retain many of the details that make it a character-defining feature.”
Weaver noted that the Hotel Stilwell’s environs are “characterized by historic commercial buildings featuring brick walls, storefronts, upper stories with windows, stone sills and lintels, and decorative brick cornices.”
Built in 1889-90, Hotel Stilwell symbolized the energy that pervaded the young, growing mining and industrial city of Pittsburg, according to the National Register application.
The hotel was named after Arthur E. Stilwell, a prominent investor and entrepreneur.
According to state regulations, a municipality where a structure is located can overturn a SHPO decision at a public hearing, if it has determined there are “no prudent and feasible alternatives to the requested change in appearance.”
At the public hearing, Arck described for city officials the dilapidated state of the building, including its badly rotted second-story windows and crumbling brick. He said the building would deteriorate further to the point of being unsafe if steel studs were not placed on the exterior.
He also said that following State Historic guidelines would be cost-prohibitive for Kim.
City officials agreed to the improvements and overturned the state preservation office decision. But they resolved that, in the future, staff should “wait to have grants approved” until the state office provides input on the proposed changes.
'Looks Like Hell'
The only city official who dissented offered these words:
“I think this is totally taking away from the historical part of this building,” said Patrick O’Bryan. “I agree the building looks like hell right now. But you’re making the first floor attractive and smart looking, and as far as I’m concerned, you’re turning the second floor into … well, you’re basically bastardizing it,” according to a local news outlet.